Maybe This Is As Good As It Gets

Maybe This Is As Good As It Gets


December 1, 2019

The Ohio State program is humming along at a pace that’s unprecedented for the Buckeyes. They have finished 1st or tied for 1st in their Big Ten division for the last eight seasons. To put that in perspective, Woody Hayes had six straight seasons finishing #1 or tied for #1 in the Big Ten, and Jim Tressel had five (six if you count the aborted Tatgate season). They have also beaten Michigan 15 out of the last 16 meetings, with the lone blip coming against one-year interim head coach Luke Fickell.

Hit the jump for more.

Ohio State has survived scandal after scandal. The one who got them on a roll was Tressel, who knowingly allowed improper benefits for his players and lied about it. That man is so revered in the State of Ohio that he is now the President of Youngstown State University. His biggest star player said, “Everybody kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me,” and everyone shrugged their shoulders.

Not everyone cheats on a grand scale, but that’s the norm in Columbus, Ohio.

After a year of Fickell, OSU hired another cheater and a man with a terrible historical record when it comes to good behavior. His players at Florida got arrested at a ridiculous rate, and he “retired for medical reasons,” only to return after a year in the television booth. He proceeded to protect an inept and violent coach; he lied about it and stepped down once again. Ohio State people shrugged their shoulders, and Fox snapped him up to sit in the TV booth.

We have seen this type of juggernaut fall before. Miami was a powerhouse with Howard Schnellenberger, Dennis Erickson, Jimmy Johnson, and Butch David in the 1980s through the early 2000s. At the end of it, Larry Coker went undefeated in his first year before dropping off to the point where Miami has been mired in mediocrity every since, going 6-6 this year. Bear Bryant’s Alabama was THE place to play football in the South from the 1950s through the early 1980s, but then came Ray Perkins and Bill Curry.

Ohio State will fall at some point. Nothing lasts forever, and even if a scandal doesn’t knock them from the top, eventually a bad coaching hire, injuries, or bad luck will knock them from their perch. Maybe Ryan Day isn’t Larry Coker, and maybe he is. Maybe the next guy will be. But the truth is that right now, Michigan is an also-ran in the Big Ten East.

Michigan needs to position itself to be waiting in the wings when the fall comes. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t strive to win. They need to win on the recruiting trail, hire the best available coaches, continue to push the envelope on nutrition and fitness, offer one of the best educations available, etc.

There is no coup coming. The Wolverines are not going to reach the mountaintop through sheer force of will. They need to play the long game and prevent things from crumbling while they lie in wait.

41 comments

  1. Avatar
    Comments: 44
    Joined: 1/2/2016
    peterfumo
    Dec 01, 2019 at 1:19 PM

    This is the only major power house program that has not dipped at all in decades. Alabama, Miami, Nebraska, Michigan,Tennessee, FSU,USC, Florida, Penn State and I am sure others that I have mentioned have current or recent setbacks that allowed their rivals to catch up or dominate them. OSU is the only exception I know of of consistent greatness. Michigan is stuck having this rival, which I am sure has effected recruiting as well. At some point you think odds will catch up to them.

    • DonAZ
      Comments: 481
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      DonAZ
      Dec 01, 2019 at 2:39 PM

      Ohio State is the jewel of the Big Ten from a national perspective, and I’m sure the powers-that-be in the B1G are being careful not to jeopardize that. Hence the minimal punishments, turning a blind eye, etc.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5498
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Dec 03, 2019 at 8:40 PM

      OSU was relatively bad in the late 80s and early 90s under Cooper.

  2. Klctlc
    Comments: 80
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Klctlc
    Dec 01, 2019 at 1:31 PM

    Thunder can you give an opinion on how big of an impact academic leniency and $ may give OSU an advantage?

    I believe the impact of both is still significant but not as much is it used to be. I think over the past 8 – 10 years they have been just so dominant kids are more likely to want to go to OSU.

    I also believe M players receive money, but I can’t see any other factors justify this level of dominance. Harbaugh is not an idiot. The level of excellence they have maintained is just so rare. No blips other than Tressel ( and that only cost them one year!!, look at the ed martin affair M self imposed disaster for 10 years)

    If M ever sees a real decline in overall football revenue, do you think M would “get into the weeds”?

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 25
    Joined: 9/24/2017
    bluegoinggray
    Dec 01, 2019 at 1:58 PM

    As an old Michigan fan, I find this incredibly sad and highly likely to be true. Michigan isn’t catching OSU without major changes which aren’t coming and would bring their own set of risks. Not happening, and if Harbaugh had the answers, we would have seen them by now. I hope that I’m still alive and give a shit whenever Michigan becomes competitive with OSU again. Who knows? Sometimes strange things happen.

  4. DonAZ
    Comments: 481
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    DonAZ
    Dec 01, 2019 at 2:36 PM

    It’s a bit ironic: OSU’s success actually provides a degree of cover for Michigan. That is, at this point everyone sees OSU as miles above everyone else in the Big Ten, so not beating OSU is not as damaging as it would have been in, say, the 1990’s. So the strategy to be a very good #2 and wait for OSU to fall may be the best available.

    (To equal OSU would require institutional changes: lower eligibility requirements, turn a blind eye to actually attending school, establish a shadow network for disbursement of non-permitted benefits, etc. That’s not likely to happen.)

    I wonder about Harbaugh-as-CEO and whether he has yet grown into that role. His assistant coaching hires have been inconsistent, and recruiting under his watch seems to leave areas under-supplied, along with too many project recruits. He could probably learn a thing or two from other non-family coaches (meaning: not Jack Harbaugh) if he was open to listening.

  5. Avatar
    Comments: 1609
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Dec 01, 2019 at 2:47 PM

    I wish MICHIGAN fans would stop with excuses. Ohio cheats? Are we naive enough to believe no MICHIGAN player gets money, or is it that they’re more savvy about it? Integrity? Our team captain stole their RB’s shoe!

    Academics is an excuse too: all B1G athletes have to pass NCAA clearing requirements. That’s it. You think all 85 schollys are going to engineering majors like Furbush? Future doctors? Come on. Our guys are there for a shot at the League, just like there’s. They just have more top talent, better development, and far superior preparation & scheme

    We’ve got our work cut out for us. It may take awhile, no matter who is leading the program

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3358
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 01, 2019 at 4:12 PM

      You should read John U. Bacon’s latest book if you want a thorough response.

      Anything is possible, but there’s proof that Ohio State cheats. There’s proof that Michigan gets rid of rule breakers and delinquents, while Urban Meyer harbored them. The facts are the facts.

      Yes, they have more top talent, etc. It’s a question of what type of environment allows that to develop. If you take the best of the best (lawfulness, integrity, intelligence, etc. notwithstanding), you’re going to be better.

      The NCAA Clearinghouse discussion is more nuanced than what you’re claiming. It’s like that all the way down to DII and DIII schools. Just because School X lets you in with a 2.5 GPA and a 1000 on the SAT doesn’t mean School Y will. Michigan DOES have higher standards than other schools. It’s not an NCAA Clearinghouse issue. It’s a Michigan issue. Again, you can read Bacon’s book. I have a friend who used to work in Admissions, and I deal with our high school kids getting through the Clearinghouse. I’m not an expert on the exact details, but this isn’t a “This guy is good enough in the classroom for Fresno State, so why not Michigan?” situation.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 1609
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Dec 01, 2019 at 5:19 PM

        How many of ohio’s top players did NOT have a Michigan offer? My guess is, not that many

        John Bacon is a terrific writer, but also a Michigan fan. I seriously doubt his book is going to air Michigan’s dirty laundry

        Do you honestly believe Michigan players aren’t getting a little something? I am 100% positive all schools do it. Some better than others

        • Klctlc
          Comments: 80
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Klctlc
          Dec 01, 2019 at 7:08 PM

          I don’t think anybody believes M is clean. But c’mon something is up. It is not an excuse, but 15 out of 16 with two MAJOR NCAA scandals for one program during that time and only on minor blip.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3358
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Dec 01, 2019 at 8:03 PM

          Maybe Bacon wouldn’t air a ton of dirty laundry…but where’s the dirty laundry? Obviously, OSU, UNC, PSU, MSU, etc. have had dirty laundry, and it got aired.

          I’m sure a Michigan player has gotten a little something somewhere. It’s somewhat inevitable. I think everybody does a little something wrong here or there. Whatever job you have had, I doubt you’ve done it perfectly. At some point you did something you weren’t supposed to do or let something happen that wasn’t supposed to happen. If a booster meets Player X at the bus stop and hands him an envelope with $500 in it, there’s no way to stop it or document it.

          But does Coach Harbaugh know about it? Is it allowed or encouraged to happen? There’s no evidence that’s the case.

          • Avatar
            Comments: 1609
            Joined: 1/19/2016
            je93
            Dec 01, 2019 at 10:07 PM

            So we agree: there’s cheating everywhere

            Bringing it up as the reason we fall short of great, is an excuse

            • Avatar
              Comments: 66
              Joined: 1/10/2017
              Julio
              Dec 02, 2019 at 7:52 AM

              Do you think there’s a difference between a $100 handshake (or the same amount in an envelope shoved under a dorm room door) and a $400K “bag man” payment?

              You apparently don’t.

              • Avatar
                Comments: 1609
                Joined: 1/19/2016
                je93
                Dec 02, 2019 at 8:20 AM

                Of course I do

                Can I (or anyone) prove those situations happens at an institution, but not the other? Nope

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3358
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Dec 02, 2019 at 8:27 AM

                  Ohio State has been proven to have inappropriate behavior within the athletic department, from Tatgate to Urban Meyer/Zach Smith to Chase Young. The last thing to come to light about Michigan was Stretchgate back in the Rodriguez era a decade ago.

                • Avatar
                  Comments: 1609
                  Joined: 1/19/2016
                  je93
                  Dec 02, 2019 at 8:49 AM

                  Thunder, who do you think pays for our guys’ tattoos? Tatgate was lame, because everyone does it – including Michigan

                  As I said earlier, cheating is an excuse, because it’s not like we’re a bunch of angels

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3358
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Dec 02, 2019 at 9:36 AM

                  So you’re saying Jim Harbaugh knows about Michigan players receiving improper benefits but hides the information? Okay.

                • Avatar
                  Comments: 1609
                  Joined: 1/19/2016
                  je93
                  Dec 02, 2019 at 9:38 AM

                  No sir, I never said that. I said it’s a waste to b!tch about cheating, pretending we don’t

                  Cheating is down the list of reasons we don’t beat ohio

                • Thunder
                  Comments: 3358
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Dec 02, 2019 at 9:50 AM

                  There are many reasons, but I’m not so sure cheating is that far down the list. KNOWN cheating is a symptom of a larger problem, which is that academics, integrity, etc. take a back seat to football success. OSU isn’t winning because they got free tattoos. But OSU *might* be winning because the coaches, administration, players, etc. are able to do whatever they want. If you’re a high-level recruit and can go to a school and live without fear of consequences, then yeah, a lot of them are going to sign up. If you’re a coach and want to spend all your time on football and not silly little things like “rules” and “discipline,” then yeah, things get a little easier when it comes to recruiting, X’s and O’s, etc.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 12
        Joined: 10/6/2019
        awolverine10
        Dec 02, 2019 at 3:25 PM

        I bought the latest Bacon book and returned it after reading 15 pages of blatant, shameless homerism. No issue with the guy being a program mouthpiece but the book does not stand up as a work of serious impartial journalism.

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3358
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Dec 02, 2019 at 7:37 PM

          I’m not saying there isn’t some homerism, but it’s more of an inside look than you’ll get virtually anywhere else.

        • Lanknows
          Comments: 5498
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Dec 04, 2019 at 12:50 PM

          I find Bacon hard to read because of this. There’s a lot of this in Ann Arbor for sure but to see it laid out in print for someone who takes themselves as seriously as Bacon is a bit much for me.

  6. Avatar
    Comments: 12
    Joined: 11/3/2015
    trross1200
    Dec 01, 2019 at 2:58 PM

    Maybe this is as good as it gets. I’ve been following Michigan football for 25 years and I’m just as disappointed as most of us that we cannot seem to compete with OSU. But what level are we exactly trying to get back to? The Lloyd Carr era? Lloyd Car teams had an average record of 9.3 wins per year and 3 losses… albeit with a National Championship.

    Any sustained excellence before that was in the 80s, which is literally a lifetime ago.

    Maybe for now this is as good as it will be… because this is really as good as Michigan has been for a very long time.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 17
      Joined: 10/31/2016
      snarling
      Dec 01, 2019 at 4:44 PM

      The ’80s weren’t too different from the ’90s – we had four 10-win seasons (’80, ’85, ’86, 89) that decade.

      The ’70s were the most elite we’ve been in the last 60+ years, but even then, we lost every bowl game we played in.

      Going 9-3 is pretty much how Michigan does things. (And it could be worse, that is a .750 win percentage after all.)

  7. Avatar
    Comments: 1277
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Dec 01, 2019 at 7:29 PM

    With Harbaugh, yes, this is as good as it gets. He is a 9-3 coach. He is not an elite coach and never will be. He cannot recruit, develop players or scheme at a championship level. He cannot win the big games against the tough opponents. The only question is how long we will be willing to settle for third place division finishes and Outback/Alamo/Holiday bowl bids?

    And if anyone is trotting out the tired old “who can we possibly get who’s better than Harbaugh?” bullshit, LSU and Georgia fans were probably asking themselves something similar a few years ago. Their athletic departments had the courage to say “we’re not going to settle for this any longer”.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 17
      Joined: 10/31/2016
      snarling
      Dec 01, 2019 at 7:52 PM

      Ed Orgeron went 10-25 at Ole Miss, 6-2 at USC and was 6-2, 9-4 and 10-3 before this season. What about that speaks greatness? Maybe this year is a fluke.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3358
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 01, 2019 at 7:57 PM

      LOL. There’s also a long list of schools that tried to find something better and couldn’t. Just look at Michigan in 2008 and 2011 trying to find someone better than Lloyd Carr. Texas, Florida State, Miami, etc.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 66
      Joined: 1/10/2017
      Julio
      Dec 02, 2019 at 7:54 AM

      You OK with cheating *to the degree* that those other schools cheat?

      For the record, I’m not a fan of all things Harbaugh. He’s been far from perfect.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 12
      Joined: 10/6/2019
      awolverine10
      Dec 02, 2019 at 3:29 PM

      I was looking at the ’19 and ’20 Michigan recruiting classes yesterday and they are quite encouraging. The OSU players who kicked Michigan’s ass on Saturday are (by and large) not higher ranked than the players Michigan is bringing in the door. Now development, scheme, playcalling, and culture may be another story.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5498
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Dec 03, 2019 at 8:51 PM
  8. UM_1973
    Comments: 95
    Joined: 10/14/2015
    UM_1973
    Dec 01, 2019 at 9:47 PM

    Remember when Harbaugh (when he was at Stanford) made the controversial comment that Michigan does not hold itself to a higher academic standard and has a way of letting borderline guys in? I believe he is trying to uphold the Michigan standard. He wants his football players to be great students and great players too. Perhaps in this era of college football, this is wishful thinking. I am sure in the other football factories (Bama/OSU/Clemson), there is less emphasis on academics. Did anyone see Joe Burrows commenting how he doesn’t go to class at all? I don’t think that would be possible at Michigan. If you are a stud 5* recruit, maybe the academic environment at Michigan is a turn-off. Considering this, maybe this is as good as it gets. What really upsets me about yesterday’s game was Michigan keeps shooting itself in the foot.

    • Avatar
      Comments: 1609
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Dec 01, 2019 at 10:10 PM

      I see where you’re coming 73

      Harbaugh is the head football coach. 100% of his attention should be on WINNING. He’s a part of an elite University with vast resources. Let them concern themselves with the pie in the sky hopes & dreams

      Harbaugh arrived with a reputation of all football, all the time; a competitor’s competitor; a a jackhammer! Time to get back to that

      • UM_1973
        Comments: 95
        Joined: 10/14/2015
        UM_1973
        Dec 02, 2019 at 11:27 AM

        je93, do you really think a football coach in Michigan will be allowed to have players not attend any class and simply take online classes? The Michigan’s arrogance will not allow that.

        • Avatar
          Comments: 17
          Joined: 10/31/2016
          snarling
          Dec 04, 2019 at 6:58 AM

          I don’t think of that as arrogance. I think of that as integrity. Do you want to degrade Michigan’s name by doing that?

          • UM_1973
            Comments: 95
            Joined: 10/14/2015
            UM_1973
            Dec 04, 2019 at 10:04 AM

            I am with you Snarling. I expect the players to be good CFB players and good students which is what I believe Jim Harbaugh wants too. I just think that the other programs are run differently. Justin Fields is right, perhaps they want it more than we do (at the expense of other things like education).

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 5498
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Dec 04, 2019 at 12:48 PM

            Jim Harbaugh gets this. Some fans don’t.

  9. Avatar
    Comments: 1609
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Dec 02, 2019 at 11:22 PM

    That’s a good question 73. Do I think a Michigan coach is free to allow such things? Absolutely not. Do I think it happens anyway? YES.

    Do you?

  10. Lanknows
    Comments: 5498
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Dec 03, 2019 at 8:44 PM

    I don’t think it’s as good as it gets. Michigan is a top 10-15 team year in and year out under Harbaugh. OSU won’t be this good every year. 2016 happened. Upsets happen. Cheaters usually get caught at some point.

    • UM_1973
      Comments: 95
      Joined: 10/14/2015
      UM_1973
      Dec 04, 2019 at 10:10 AM

      I hope you are right Lanknows. That this is not as good as it gets. I also happen to agree with Greenberg. Michigan has not been elite for a long time.

      But my expectation is not as lofty as others. 1-2 Big Ten titles every 5 years. National Championship is purely a bonus. Just like what basketball has been for us under the John Beilein era. Is Harbaugh the right guy to lead it? I think so but simply because I do not know who else will do a better job than him.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 5498
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Dec 04, 2019 at 12:25 PM

      Thunder said it well. “Michigan needs to position itself to be waiting in the wings when the fall comes”. This is exactly right.

      I think they are already doing it now. Thanks to Harbaugh.

      I think Harbaugh is one of the 5 best coaches in the country. I think Brown is one of the 5 best DCs. Gattis has the potential/ceiling to get there. I think Gattis showed A LOT to be excited about in turning this offense into something that looks like it can go to blow-for-blow with an elite team.

      These all look to be between good and great hires. And that’s not the end of it for Harbaugh, as he continues to see position coaches other teams are eager to poach.

      The coaches can improve of course but nobody on this staff needs to be fired. Retaining them is the bigger concern.

  11. Lanknows
    Comments: 5498
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Dec 04, 2019 at 12:46 PM

    I think Michigan faces a lot of institutional disadvantages relative to places like OSU, Alabama, Clemson, and LSU. It’s not just cheating or a different degree of cheating. It’s not just academic fraud, pay to play, or steroids. It’s not just recruiting footprint, weather, and academic standards.

    IMO, and I know some disagree or want to say it’s like this everywhere, but I think the fanbase culture is part of the problem too. Expectations are out of whack. Disaffection, whining, complaining, entitlement – whatever label you want to put on the negativity – there’s way too much of it.

    The sea of red in the stands last Saturday speaks for itself. Michigan is Ohio State’s Indiana or Northwestern. That’s not on Harbaugh.

    One can quibble with some of the above. But not all of it.

    The truth is that Michigan is in a very good spot to be a top 25 team given their prestige and size of the fanbase (i.e., budget) but they are not in a great spot to be a top 5 team. The truth is they never have been.

    There’s a lot to overcome and I think the coaches are doing a pretty good job. There are a few places doing nearly as well with less (e.g. Wisconsin) but many places doing less with more (e.g., FSU, Florida, Texas, USC, UCLA).

    Harbaugh is better qualified to take Michigan to a national tile than anyone else. He understands what it takes to win at Michigan. It’s anything but easy and it’s time Michigan fans understood that is true no matter how many legal dollars are thrown at it.

    He’ll have to beat OSU eventually but the fact is it may take a big dose of good luck for it to happen unless things change on OSU’s side of the equation.

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